For more information on how you can help, go to www.familypromisebryancounty.org.
It was 1993. Candice Stewart-Fife was 5½ months pregnant. She made an unforgettable 3-mile walk in the snow. Scared but not helpless, she sought the services of Interfaith Council.
“It wasn’t on my parents to take care of me,” Stewart-Fife said. “I wanted to be able to make the step to take care of myself on my own. I didn’t want to use them as a crutch.”
Now, Stewart-Fife serves as the funds-development and public-relations chairwoman for Family Promise of Bryan County.
Despite the obvious challenges of an unplanned pregnancy, Stewart-Fife began receiving services and developing skills that would impact the course of her life. Dedicated volunteers worked alongside her to empower her with skills for case management, life, money management, job training, interviewing and counseling. This propelled the young, uneducated expectant mother to seek more.
With newfound self-esteem, Stewart-Fife — now a mother of three — faced a failed marriage and a big decision. In 2001, she uprooted her family and moved to Georgia.
“The confidence that was instilled in me through Interfaith Council, now Family Promise gave me the confidence to make the move,” Stewart-Fife said.
Once in Georgia, she quickly found herself moving in a new direction. She became a student at South University, where she received dual associate degrees in accounting and finance and business administration. Raising three children, working two jobs and pushing her education further, Stewart-Fife enrolled in her first master’s-degree program. Through American InterContinental University, she received an MBA in operations management in 2013, and her second, in management and leadership, in 2015. She met and married the love of her life, husband Joseph Fife, in 2011.
Had it not been for the skills instilled in Stewart-Fife while she was living in New Jersey she wouldn’t been who she is today.
“Those were the best 3 miles I ever walked,” she said. “It changed the person I was into the person I am today.”
Stewart-Fife and the Family Promise team are motivated to take this cause to the next level. The needs of families in Bryan County are not being met because of one simple fact: Family Promise of Bryan County has no building. Without an address, this 501(c)(3) nonprofit cannot help on the scale needed.
Visibility for the organization is crucial. Stewart-Fife knows firsthand the power of mentorship and sound guidance. It is community helping community.
“Family Promise brings stability and builds relationships,” she said.
“According to the United States Census Bureau, there are an estimated 34,000 residents here in Bryan County,” Stewart-Fife said. “So if everybody donated just $3, we would reach our goal. We are holding a number of fundraising events to close the gap, but we are asking people to step up and make a difference so we can begin to empower families in Bryan County to regain stability and independence and to break the cycle of dependence on social programs and government assistance.”
Family Promise has partnered with Richmond Hill United Methodist Church to host the Family of Faith Christian Music Festival. The event will be held at RHUMC from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Spectators can expect music, vendors and food, and they will be able to contribute to the cause monetarily.
“Families with children make up 40 percent of the people in this country who experience homelessness,” said Jeanne Wallace, a member of Family Promise’s Congregational Relations Committee. “It is difficult for people to believe that there are children in Bryan County Schools who go home to a car or to a motel room shared with two or three other people. In the 2014-15 school year, Bryan County had 68 children who were identified as homeless. Because statistics show that about half of all homeless children are under age 6, it is likely that there are another 60-70 uncounted preschool-age children in Bryan County who are experiencing homelessness.”
With several upcoming fundraising events, Family Promise is focused on locking in two more churches to join the 11 that are already committed so the organization can establish the right affordable space to call home. Without either, those in need cannot receive services.
Stewart-Fife is confident the community make this happen, which would allow Family Promise to begin serving those in need as early as January.